Folklore And Spirits Of The Land Series: Haunted Liverpool, Then And Now.

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Hello everyone! I hope you’re well and enjoying the new year? I’m not sure what you lovely lot are up too, but over my way I’m attempting to deal with the icy cold weather, snow and damp. It really is freezing! The weather tricked me the other day and showed me a lovely cold, but bright day! My immediate thought was “ah! Perhaps the winter is fading now and we may see some snowdrops soon!”. To which my husband replied “Don’t be silly! It’s False Spring. It will be cold again tomorrow”. Alas, he was right (again) much to my annoyance! The following day was freezing. It reminded me of the folklore relating to 1st February/Imbolc, that if it is a sunny day, winter is due to last longer, as the Cailleach is out collecting her firewood to keep the hearth warm a while longer. Whereas, if the day is cold and miserable, take heart, because winter is almost over.

Winter, for me at least, is a time when it’s all about staying as warm and cosy as possible with family and loved ones. Quiet nights in, and where possible, the TV off, and cuddled up on the sofa reading a good book, looking through old family albums of ancestors now gone, and of course, telling ghost stories. So with that in mind, I thought a blog sharing the ghost stories of one of my favourite cities, would make a nice addition to this series!

Liverpool is a fascinating city, not just because of it’s worldwide influential contributions towards sports, music, and comedy. But also because of it’s social history, politics and heart. It’s probably one of the most resilient cities of the world – well of course it is, it’s largely made up of Irish descendants. And we all know how much Ireland as a nation has triumphed in the face of political and colonial adversary Britain (or should that be, Westminster?).
Liverpool is also an ancient city with links to the Salem witch trials, mythic protective birds who watch over both the city and the Mersey waters (the Liver birds), strange, unexplainable, and potentially neolithic mounts in churchyards (St John’s mount), and of course, ghosts…

Today I would like to share with you two recorded ghost stories from Liverpool’s history as well as two more modern (and personal) experiences from this amazing city, so grab a nice hot drink, and cosy on down for an article of ghostly happenings

The Ghost Of Wellington Avenue.

“During Easter 1993, 54-year-old bachelor Jim Wilkinson left his local pub and returned to his home in Wellington Avenue, Wavertree. However, when he put his key in the front door, he discovered that the door would not open. Concluding that burglars had got in and locked the door from the inside, he called the police. Two policemen turned up and tried the door without success. One of the constables smiled and announced, “looks like we’ll have to do a Sweeney!” and, backing up six feet, he charged at the door. However, before he hit the door, it flew open and he went, head first, flying into the hall. The policemen were so sure that someone had opened the door from the inside, that they both checked the house, expecting to encounter burglars – but the house was empty and all the windows were found to be locked. At this point, Mr Wilkinson told them that the culprit must have been Old Jonesy – Billy Jones – the mischievous and harmless ghost of a popular headmaster who had died in the house many years before and the policemen quickly returned to their patrol car and sped off! Mr Wilkinson moved out of the house on Wellington Avenue in 2002, and went to live in St Helens. Kerry and Sean, a young couple in their twenties, saw the To Let sign on Mr Wilkinson’s property a month after he had vacated the house, and they soon moved in. Three weeks after the couple had settled into the house, Kerry heard a deep male voice singing Men of Harlech in the back bedroom one evening while her husband was working late. Kerry was so afraid of the eerie singer, she went outside and told an elderly neighbour about the singing, and although he knew about the ghost of Billy Jones, he said nothing, as he didn’t want to scare the girl, but he suggested they should go into the backyard and look up at the window to see who was doing the singing. As Kerry and the neighbour walked to the backyard, the singing increased in volume. ‘Do you think it’s a burglar?’ Kerry asked, and the elderly neighbour smiled and said, ‘No, love, they don’t stand around singing.’ When Kerry and the neighbour reached the backyard, they looked up, and saw that the light in the window of the back bedroom was on, and there upon the blinds was the shadow of a man in a mortarboard – the old flat hats schoolmasters used to wear many years ago. The silhouette was raising its arms as it belted out Men of Harlech and Kerry let out a yelp and ran out of the yard. Her husband Sean was told about the ghost, but believed there was a rational explanation – until he had a chilling – and rather painful encounter with the schoolmaster a few days later. It was an early Sunday morning, about 7.40am, and Sean woke up, and then gazed at the window. He thought he saw a man standing there, but was confused, and thought he was dreaming. He closed his eyes. The young man’s left arm and left leg were sticking out of from under the duvet because it was quite warm in the room. All of a sudden, something struck Sean’s left palm hard. Thwack! Sean yelled out, and opened his eyes. Standing over him was a man well over six feet in height, in a tweed jacket and matching trousers, and his face was contorted with hatred. In his right hand he held a long cane – the type teachers once used for corporal punishment. The tall gangly figure lifted the cane, ready to strike Sean again, but Sean ducked under the blankets. He heard the cane strike the blankets, and he shook his wife awake. Kerry woke up, startled, but saw no man standing by the bed. Within a week, the couple had left the house. At the moment an old woman lives in the haunted house, but so far, I have not had any further reports of Billy Jones”.

~ Story taken from ‘haunted Liverpool 1’, by Tom Sleman.

The Woman Through The Wall.

“The Woman Through The Wall Memory is a curious thing, especially when it comes to events which might be classified as uncanny or supernatural; more than a handful of the people who I interviewed for this book seemed to have all but forgotten their own peculiar experiences right up until the point when they were asked the crucial question ‘have you ever seen a ghost?’ Ms J. was one such interviewee, positive at first that nothing strange had ever happened to her ‘except for that one time…’ The peculiar event in question took place in suburban Croxteth less than half a mile (0.80 km) from the modern-day boundary of Croxteth Country Park, in 1973. Ms J. would have been five or six years old at the time, visiting her grandmother (who lived in Sovereign Road): We were sitting on the sofa watching telly just as we always did. I don’t remember the woman appearing; we both just became aware of her as she walked across the living room from the opposite side of the room. My Nan got up and faced her, asking her who she was and what she wanted but the woman just walked past – not through – her. It was as though she was heading ‘downstage’; she was walking at an angle which was not the angle of the house. I honestly can’t remember her exit. I have a feeling she just walked into the corner but I don’t remember her ‘disappearing’ as such, she just wasn’t there anymore. Prior to the houses being built on Sovereign Road, it and the surrounding area was farmland, Ms J.’s grandmother having moved into her property when it was newly built. Ms J. informed me that her grandmother referred to the area as Dog and Gun, a title which may well have either derived from, or else inspired, the name of the historic Dog and Gun public house. Evidently, the locale must once have been part of the hunting ground belonging to the earls of Sefton who lived in Croxteth Hall, the inn providing a welcome rest stop for weary huntsmen and their associates. Sadly, Croxteth is an area which has had its fair share of social problems since the new estates were erected in the 1970s and 1980s. The Dog and Gun pub was closed in 2004 following a police raid in which, somewhat aptly, armed response teams were accompanied by dog patrol officers.56 Despite Sovereign Road’s rural history, the woman who seemingly stepped through Ms J.’s grandmother’s wall that day was no farm girl or groundskeeper’s daughter from days of yore. According to Ms J.’s recollections, the woman was dressed in near-contemporary clothes, ‘wearing a knee-length skirt and jumper. She had blonde hair; I remember telling my mum when she got home that she’d looked like Norma, a friend of hers from work.’ I have scoured records for any likely candidates for the phantom woman but nothing unusual or noteworthy seems to have occurred in the vicinity around that time. Of course, should ghosts actually exist, there is no reason to suppose that the manner of their demise has to have been exceptional in order that they remain in, or pay visit to, the land of the living. If there was nothing in the area prior to the houses being built then it stands to reason that the spirit could be that of someone quite contemporary, having met their end in the vicinity or else perhaps making their way home for one last time; the brick walls of their neighbours’ houses no longer presenting such an unyielding boundary as they had previously”.

~ Story taken from ‘800 years of haunted Liverpool’, by John Reppion.

You Can Come In Now.

This experience was one of my very own and occurred at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital on the 16th of December 2019. I had an appointment for an ultrasound scan to check the progress of my pregnancy. It was late afternoon, and the hospital was very quiet. In fact, once I had checked in for my appointment at the main desk, the subsequent corridors were almost completely empty! I met not one soul as I walked all the way down to Waiting Area A, and then down a second corridor to where the ultrasound rooms were. As I got halfway down the corridor, a Sonographer beamed and said, “Zanna Kelly?”. I smiled and nodded, to be greeted by a further welcome of “You can both come in now”.

Odd, I thought, there’s only me here. Perhaps she is just used to welcoming couples in to the clinic. I then went into the room and began to take my coat off, only to watch the sonographer double back and say, “Come in – Oh, where’s he gone?”.
“Sorry”, I replied, “But where’s who gone?”.
“The gentleman in the black coat who was with you”, she replied confused. Baffled, I said “No, sorry. I’m here alone today. My husband’s having to wait in the car with the kids because I didn’t know If my children could attend the scan”.

I was shocked the see the colour in the Sonographers face suddenly drain, and she become pale. “Oh, sorry”, she stuttered, “I was sure I saw a man walking just behind you. He was right there, are you sure there was no one with you?”.
By this point a part of me was wondering what on earth was going on, I hadn’t sensed any spirits about the place, but then I was in a rush to not be late to the scan. And this health care professional didn’t seem like she was winding me up or going mad. I reassured her that I was alone, and I had not seen any other people in the corridor. “Could it have been a Doctor, going into another clinic? Or another patients partner?” I asked.
“No” the member of staff replied. “You’re the last patient for today, and it’s only me and another female member of staff around here. And she is here to work with me. Everyone else has gone home or are working in other parts of the building.” At this, the sonographer seemed to give herself a mental shake. The colour was returning to her face now, and she looked thoroughly embarrassed at making a scene in front of a patient.

The scan went ahead, everything was normal, and I picked up my coat and maternity notes to leave. The sonographer opened the door for me and gave an uneasy look down the corridor. Sensing her unease, and now knowing that I was her last patient, I offered to wait and walk out with her. But sadly, this only caused more embarrassment to the poor woman, who looked as though she wanted the floor beneath her to swallow her whole. She politely declined, and I walked the corridors, back to the main entrance alone (I think?). I have told several friends and family members about this incident, because it still perplexes me to this day. You see, in my family, we have a spectre called “the man in black”. This spirit, whoever it is, always appears before a member of the family has an accident, gets sick, etc.
As the Sonographer had mentioned seeing a man in a black coat, I asked a fellow psychic and friend, someone from outside of the family, to see if they could reach out to this ‘man in black’ and find out if he was trying to warn me.

The information back from the psychic was phenomenal, but tragic. She told me that this spirit is someone close to the family and he had come to warn me to be careful in pregnancy. That several family members would get very sick, and I had to keep myself very safe so that I would not get sick myself. This spirit also specifically mentioned my asthma and history of repeated pneumonia, and to be careful. about six weeks after this scan, a new virus was being reported in Wuhan, China. One month later, the whole of the UK, and most of the world would be on a lockdown due to Coronavirus. I lost four members of my family and a friend to Covid 19, and ended up giving birth during the height of the first wave. I did everything I could to keep myself safe during the lockdown and the last trimester of my pregnancy, especially as so many pregnant women were becoming critically ill with Covid 19 complications. Thankfully, I did not catch Covid 19 while pregnant. I caught it the following year when my body was much more able to deal with the virus. Sadly though, throughout the entire course of the pandemic, I lost one grandfather, my Nan, my great aunt, great uncle, and a dear friend. I’m not entirely sure who this man in black is, but I will always be eternally grateful for making himself seen on that day of my first ultrasound scan.

The Clock.

In the Cunard building by the Liverpool docks there is a beautiful old grandfather clock. I recently had cause to go into this building to register some information. On completing this task, I made my way back across the large hall and back into the foyer. It was there I noticed the clock. Or should I say, a young man in a red top looking at the clock. I did a double take, but suddenly the man was gone – he vanished into thin air. Knowing full well that this must have been a spirit, who, for whatever reason was showing himself to anyone who could see or sense spirit, I told myself “Not today! I’m too busy”. But as usual, curiosity got the better of me, and I do love old fashioned clocks, so I made my way over to have a look. By this point, there was no spirit activity at all, just a gorgeous grandfather clock before me. It was as I was turning to leave that I noticed a small gold plaque beside the clock which read “This clock is stopped at 3:06pm, in memory of the 96 fans who went to a football match and never came home. Hillsborough, 15th April 1989”. A cold chill ran down my back, and I felt a sense of grief. Although I am not a football fan, I grew up with a dad who still fanatically supports Crystal Palace FC.
I can remember when the new safety regulations that were brought in to protect supporters, and the terrible pain that government, the police and media outlets caused the victims of that tragic event, and their families.

Once I got back to the car, I did a quick Google to find out what both Liverpool FC’s home and away kits looked like back in 1989. Not being from Liverpool, the North of England, or a football supporter, I didn’t know. But I had a sneaking suspicion it might be red, or was that Man United? (FYI, they both use red apparently. see, I really am that rubbish with sports). A quick |Google search for Liverpool home and away kits for 1989 showed me two possible T-shirts for supporters. One red and white, and one red. Whether I saw a ghost of someone who was a victim of the disaster, or whether I saw a thought form that has been conjured up by one cities communal sense of grief, I do not know. But I do know that I saw, for only a moment, a young man, in a red shirt, staring at that memorial clock.

I hope that you enjoyed this week’s blog, or if not enjoyed, at least appreciated some of the sad poignancy of some of these stories. You see, where some ghost stories are entertaining, or even comical, some truly are tragic. As a folk witch and as someone who can interact with spirit, I often see or commune with them. Contrary to popular beliefs, I have found most ghosts do not want help ‘moving on’, or necessarily want to scare you. Sometimes, they are just re-enacting previous traumatic events, or are just existing in their own way- unwilling to move on. Instead, choosing to stay and connect with places that made them happy, or were at the very least, significant to them in life. Some spirits even come come back to offer warnings (like my experience at the Liverpool Women’s), or perhaps just reminding us that that on some level, they are still here, walking with us, the living from time to time. Perhaps this was the case for whoever I saw by the clock in the Cunard building, providing they were a ghost, and not some kind of thought form or mass projection of one cities grief.

From the time, mists, and distance between us, blessings from me to you.

By ZBK January 2023

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